Vike profile: Billionaire Jon Huntsman Sr. started his success at Paly

Kaahini Jain and Ria Pai

In the Palo Alto High School class of 1955, a young man was voted Most Popular and Best Personality by his classmates and would continue his success in everything from American politics to American fast food. 

His name was Jon Huntsman Sr., Paly Junior Class President of 1955.  He would later go on to be a major part in the invention of the casing that is now easily identifiable as the clamshell container for McDonald’s hamburgers. 

In his senior yearbook, Jon Huntsman Sr. was voted Most Popular and Best Personality. Photo: Margaret Li, Madrono Yearbook, 1955

Huntsman accomplished much over his lifetime in business and philanthropy.  In 2016, Fortune Magazine named him the second most generous man in America.  

After earning his degree at Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Huntsman went on to create the Huntsman Container Corp., which creates packaging for fast-food restaurants globally, and the Huntsman Chemical Corp., which creates plastics and petrochemicals, turning corporations into multimillion-dollar companies. He also established Huntsman Gay Global Capital, a private equity firm. 

In addition to his contributions to fast food companies, Huntsman also served as the White House Staff Secretary in the 1970s under President Nixon, leaving office just before the Watergate scandal, in which he was not involved, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

The four-time cancer survivor, who donated over $1.5 billion to causes including cancer research and education, died in 2018, but his contributions affected and are appreciated by many.